war ruins many lives, but it also has very negative effects on the environment
Anne Wall writes about the worrying impact of war on our already fragile environment
Wars are horrendous, all they result in is death and devastation. But although this fact is admitted and
recognised by most people, wars have been a prevailing feature on our planet for thousands of years,
reaching unimaginable heights of horror under capitalism.
Those in power never seem to learn from the enormous consequences of war, because profits can
be made. The cost in human terms can never be underestimated but we also need to look at the
enormous cost in environmental terms.
For us, as humans, to live, function and prosper on our planet, we need a healthy environment and
ecosystems that work as nature intended. Enhancing and enriching our lives. However, the impact of
wars on our environment can have far reaching effects that may not be seen for many years after a
The most recent example of how a war impacts our environment is the war in Ukraine so let's have a
brief look at how that country's environment has been affected. This war is just one year old and the
damage that has already been done to the environment and ecosystems there is very worrying. There
has been a two-pronged impact, first the flora and fauna there have been directly affected, while there
are indirect effects in terms of pollution of air water and land.
Before the war, Ukraine had been facing serious problems environmentally. Like most other countries
the issues of climate change and protecting biodiversity needed to be tackled.
Due to the war, many conservation projects that had been put in place had to be deferred. Some staff
working in parks and on these projects enlisted and those that remain are impeded in carrying out their
duties due to military action, electricity blackouts and a lack of food. Some protected areas have been
used to provide shelter and refuge for many that have been internally displaced. Due to the lack of
staff overseeing these protected areas, there has been an increase in poaching of endangered
species such as sturgeon, as well as illegal logging of the ancient beech forests. There had been a
programme in place supporting natural forest management but that is now practically uncontrollable.
Almost one third of the protected areas have been affected, it is feared that many plant species that
are native to Ukraine may be lost forever.
Russia's attacks on Ukraine's power plants have had several serious effects, the obvious one is
people being left without heating, lighting or water. Another effect are the toxic fumes created by the
fires, which are caused by the missile strikes. These fumes, not only cause air pollution, but as they
fall they poison the soil, and also can seep into water supplies and cause major pollution to water
sources and the ecosystems that live there. Water sources are also being contaminated due to
damage caused to wastewater treatment plants, with several damaged facilities spewing raw waste
into the environment.
Add into the mix the issues around the safety of the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants
and the potential for a major environmental disaster that would spread far wider than Ukraine itself.
This is a huge worry and another reason that escalation is sheer madness and we need to resist calls
to line up with NATO warmongers.
So when we see the damage that one year of war has done in Ukraine - try and imagine the damage
that has been done in other areas where conflict has happened and in some cases, is still ongoing.
Picture the devastation in countries like Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan -to mention just a few. With
no proper leadership and constant fighting - fueled by Western powers, there is little chance of
beginning or restarting any conservation programmes and even if they could, what is lost is lost
There is also a big financial cost to war - those tanks and missiles that cause such havoc and
destruction come at an enormous cost. At the moment NATO and some other western countries are
supplying (selling) these weapons that cause so much damage to our environment. The irony of
seeing these same countries meeting to discuss ways to protect our planet and halt climate change
cannot be lost on us. While ordinary people are being told to stop using cars as often and to separate
our waste, every day bombs are being dropped and missiles are being fired in many parts of our
world. The obvious answer is peace, but while money is to be made, wars will continue. The capitalist
system only wants profit, no matter what the cost.
In cases of war there are no winners. When wars end, buildings and other infrastructure can be rebuilt
but the losses in terms of human life and our environment can never be replaced.
Only Socialism offers a way out of this destructive cycle of death and devastation.
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